Thom Yorke's Misguided War on Spotify

Bringing attention to the underachieving streaming service could get listeners to try it

A few weeks back, Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich did Spotify a big favor: They got every music blog and major newspaper to write about the service. The Internet was blazing with this irrelevant story, but if these guys are that mad at the service, is it worth paying attention to?

That’s Spotify’s problem. The youngsters, who glom up every new social networking service believe it’s irrelevant, for adults at best … and those adults are so frugal and so afraid of coughing up their Facebook identity that they don’t use it either. And then the smug, self-satisfied digerati complain about streaming costs, even though the service allows you to synch four digits worth of playlisted tracks to your handset so it’s like
you own them and …

That’s just the point. Ignorance rules. Kind of like with the artists themselves…

As for the complaint that catalog plays get as much in payment as new cuts … Does Radiohead really want to take less on “Creep?” I don’t think so. Just ask Brian Message, their manager, who came out against Yorke and Godrich’s screed.

A song is a song is a song. And until recently, catalog music used to cost more at retail! And since everybody’s paid by the play, why give new artists a leg up when it’s those who last that reap rewards.

As for major label ownership … I hate to disillusion you, but he who has the desirable asset makes the deal on favorable terms. There is no Spotify without the major label catalogs; that’s how they got their ownership position. As for payment per track, this is what has bothered me since Spotify’s inception, the lack of transparency. It’s all digits, they now even tell you the number of streams tracks have, but as far as delineating every last detail of payment … it’s all behind a curtain, exactly the way the major labels like it. They’ve been underpaying and screwing artists since their inception.

Which is kind of why artists believe they’re getting screwed by Spotify, because the label is keeping most of the royalties. If you go indie, you get paid more. As for getting paid less per stream … Come on, even Steve Jobs backed down regarding indies and the iTunes Store. Indies now make up a greater percentage of the marketplace than ever before. They’re gaining leverage. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by pulling your music from the service.

If Yorke and Godrich were smart, and they’re not, based on creating this publicity juggernaut that is benefi ting Spotify, not the indie musicians they say they care about, they’d be doing “I Want My MTV” commercials for the service. All acts should be doing this. MTV was a failed enterprise before that campaign, but with stars in commercials imploring viewers to call their cable companies and demand the service … MTV blew up.

We want Spotify to blow up.

Yes, we want everyone in America to have a streaming music subscription. We want to grow the pot. But Yorke and Godrich would rather stand on ceremony and deny the future, to their detriment.

Most people to this day don’t know how Spotify works. We’ve got to get them to check it out.

As for iTunes Radio, artists don’t want that. Are you kidding me? You want people to be able to play your music ad infi nitum. iTunes Radio is a RADIO service, just like it says. Do you like sitting in your car waiting for another spin of your favorite? … OF COURSE NOT! But if Yorke and Godrich and their ilk put a dent in Spotify that’s what you’ll get.

So all you artists, and too often it’s wannabes who weren’t making any money anyway but are students of the game, start proselytizing for streaming services. Subscribe yourself, and demonstrate them. Use your power to get your minions to sign on.

THEN YOU’LL MAKE MORE MONEY!

Read more Bob Lefsetz columns at Lefsetz.com.

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